THE ORIGIN OF RELIGION


SHAMANISM - the ORIGIN OF RELIGION

DAVID LEWIS-WILLIAMS
THE MIND IN THE CAVE
Consciousness and the Origins of Art
Thames&Hudson 2004
...audio-driving, such as pro­longed drumming, visual stimulations, such as continually flashing lights, and sustained rhythmic dancing, such as among Dervishes, have a similar effect on the nervous system. We also need to mention fatigue, pain, fasting and, of course, the ingestion of psychotropic substances as means of shifting con­sciousness along the intensified trajectory towards the release of inwardly generated imagery. Finally, there are pathological states, such as schizophrenia and temporal lobe epilepsy, that take consciousness along the intensified tra­jectory. Hallucinations may thus be deliberately sought, as in the ingestion of psychotropic substances, or they may be unsought, as in many of the other modes of induction
..the neurologically generated experiences of travelling underground and flying are, I argue, the origin of notions of a tiered cosmos. This is, I believe, the best explanation for so universally held beliefs that have no relation to the material experience of daily life. Such beliefs were not inferred from observations of the natural environment. Nor did they easily and swiftly diffuse from a single geographically located origin because they made excellent sense of the world in which people lived. Rather, they are part of the in-built experiences of the full spectrum of human consciousness.

Stanley Krippner

The Epistemology and Technologies of Shamanic States of Consciousness
Journal of Consciousness Studies
Vol.7, No.11/12 2000
pg. 94-118
Shamanism can be described as a group of techniques by which its practitioners enter the 'spirit world', purportedly obtaining information that is used to help and to heal members of their social group. The shamans 'epistemology, or ways of knowing, depended on deliberately altering their conscious state and/or height-ening their perception to contact spiritual entities in 'upper worlds: 'lower worlds'and 'middle earth' (i.e., ordinary reality). 

Robin Dunbar
The Human Story
A new History of Mankind's Evolution
faber and faber 2004
pg 159ff

...Without a community of story-tellers and their audience, it is questionable as to whether we would really have Culture with a capital 'C'. The cultural community that make sense of the stories I tell interpret them in terms of their own individual experiences of life, applaud the good ones and scoff at the bad, adding their own nuances of interpretation as they do so. This, surely, is what human culture is all about. Story-telling becomes culture because the stories we tell come to influence the minds of others. Strictly speaking, we do not need language for that, but we do need some form of communication. Mime might sufffice, Egyptian hieroglyphs would do admirably. Language does happen to work particularly well, however.
If literature remains a purely human domain because of our advanced mind-reading abilities, then does it provide us with any purchase on the question of when this key defining feature of humanity evolved? The short answer is no. Because stories do not fossilise. But there is one form of story-telling that does leave its imprint in the archaeological record - religion. Religion requires us to be able to conceive of imaginary worlds, worlds that we do not directly experience. We have to be able to step back from the immediacy of our everyday experiences and ask: 'Could the world be otherwise than as I experience it? Could there be a parallel world inhabited by beings that I cannot see and touch directly in the way I see and touch objects and individuals in the world we all inhabit?'We have to be able to imagine that the world is other than it seems to be from our everyday physical experiences of it, and to be able to suppose that this parallel universe out there somewhere, peopled as we imagine with other beings, can influence our world - and perhaps, in their turn, be influenced by us.
Herein, then, lies the great divide between ourselves and our ape cousins: the world of the imagination. We can imagine that something can be other than it is. We can pretend that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden. We can construct rituals and beliefs that have no intrinsic reality other than in our heads. Other animals cannot do that because they cannot step back from the world and wonder how it might be if it was different from the way they perceive it to be. And so we are brought full force to the one thing we have skirted carefully around, the issue of religious belief.

Dunbar 167
...Religion would seem to be a truly universal trait among humans. Every human tribe that has ever been encountered has some form of belief in a spirit world and most (but maybe not all) have some sense of an afterlife. All engage in rituals and prayers intended to placate, cajole or entice the denizens of that unseen world to look favourably on the poor long-suffering members of the human race. At the same time, we have no evidence of any kind that would seriously suggest that any other species aside from ourselves has anything remotely resembling religion. This is not simply because other species lack language. Language is important in formalising religion within a community, in allowing us to agree on the nature of the gods in whom we believe and the afterlife that we hanker for. But this is not what makes religion or religious belief in the individual possible.
There are three quite distinct questions we can ask about human religious experience:
(1) Why are we the only species to have religion and believe in a parallel world? (2) What function did religion serve for our ancestors, and to what extent does it still serve that function for us today?
(3) When did religion first appear in human history?

Even a cursory glance around the world's myriad religions should convince us of one thing, and this is that religion serves several different, bot often equally important, purposes in the lives of recent and modern humans. These functions would seem to be:
(1) providing coherence for the world in which we live (a metaphysical scheme that explains why the world is as it is, and thus makes sense of it for us);
(2) allowing us to feel we have greater control (throngh prayer and other rituals) over the vagaries of life than we would otherwise do;
(3) enforcing rules about how we should behave in society (ethics and moral systems); and
(4) allowing a minority to exert political control over the community.

I detect in these two quite separate agendas. One seems to be associated with trying to allow us to cope with a world that is not always as benevolent towards us as we might wish. The other seems to have much more to do with social control in a very broad sense.

Francisco Varela
Ethical Know-How
Action,Wisdom, and Cognition
Stanford University Press 1999

Jacques Derrida
Philosophie der Differenz.
Erst im Vergleich mit anderen konstituiert sich das Subjekt, das Derrida im Anschluss an Jacques Lacan als sub-jectum, als der Sprache Unterworfenes versteht.
Der Sinn erschliesst sich nicht aus und in sich selbst, sondern einzig und allein in der Differenz – diesen Sachverhalt zeigt Ferrida auf eindrückliche Weise anhand der sprachlichen Sinnbildung; was das Wort meint, definiert sich erst durch die Absetzung von anderen Wörtern. Und da feststehende Bedeutungen je nach Adresse ändern und in etwas anderes übergehen können, spricht Derrida von Streuung – von Dissemination. Er kritisiert inbesondere den europäischen Logozentrismus, weil dieser die Widersprüche und Aporien, die dem Denken eigen sind, nicht wahrhaben will, sondern auf vermeintlich klare und eindeutige, ja totalitäre Begriffe setzt. In seinem ehrgeizigen Ansatz, die Logik zu enthüllen, die einem bestimmten Macht- und Denksystem innewohnt, erweist sich Derrida als emminent politischer Philosoph.


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